Those who take their business or leadership role seriously know that life is much easier and business is much more successful with real talent in your team. The CEO’s of two of the most successful businesses in corporate history, Steve Jobs at Apple and Jack Welch at GE, were both very vocal about having A players on your team. Often, I’m asked to write or speak about acquiring top talent. That stands to reason, it’s what my company, Hyperion Executive Search does, help companies find the very best talent. But we also help clients to retain that top talent.
Finding and acquiring talent can be costly (although it should always be seen and treated as an investment not a cost), so it’s bizarre that some companies devote so much time to acquiring talent, then don’t know what to do with ‘it’, or how to manage ‘it’ and subsequently lose ‘it’. A bit like constantly filling a bucket with a hole in. Now that is an expensive business.
To maximise your investment in talented individuals your company needs to put in place a range of measures and processes, starting with on-boarding and induction. These are critical, but I wanted to speak more about retention of existing talent. At Hyperion we provide a range of services and consultancy aimed at helping businesses to retain and maximise the impact of talented employees, but here are some of the key considerations. Like many of the most important practices in business they are not rocket science, but they are often overlooked.
I base my comments on nearly two decades of interviewing and consulting with talented candidates. I’ve approached or been approached by many hundreds of candidates, maybe thousands. There are many factors why some people stay put, even when approached with a strong opportunity, and why some want to jump ship. I’ve found though that if one or more of these key three elements is missing, then you have a potential leaver.
You may or may not be surprised to hear that money is very seldom the key driver for talented people to want to leave. A factor yes, but rarely the most important one.
So, what are the three key factors that talented people want and need to be happy, and therefore be driven to stay in your business?
Good people do not want to be micro-managed or inhibited from being creative in their job. You will often see comments that most people leave a job directly because of their immediate boss. Of course, that can be true, but it can also be true that the ‘boss’ is just acting within or carrying out the company culture. It’s easy to blame one individual, but it’s the company culture that allows that manager to operate in that way. People expect to be managed, to be accountable, to have parameters and guidelines, but they also want the ability to get on with the job. They want to use the talent you employed them for, to be creative, to find solutions, in short, they want autonomy in their role to grow, achieve and prove their worth, to you and to themselves.
In the same vein good people want to be challenged. Not only do they want the autonomy to do their job, they want new challenges and situations to deal with and to learn from. Greater levels of responsibility or special projects in addition to their day to day activities. A greater challenge doesn’t just mean upping their targets or workload, it means new things to stretch their abilities and creativity and to demonstrate their value. It is accepted that this is usually whilst also maintaining performance in their current role, but ultimately leads to promotion or new opportunities in the business. In short they want an opportunity to grow and to shine.
Recognition and reward can and does come in many ways; salary and financial reward are an important part of the mix. Don’t though expect to retain your superstars forever if you just throw money at them. If that’s all that’s on offer, they can find that elsewhere easily enough, or they’ll choose to sacrifice some income for the autonomy and challenges we’ve discussed. We have helped many, many good candidates to move over the years where a decrease in salary has been happily accepted for a more rewarding and challenging environment. Rewards and recognition are a huge topic in themselves, but a whole raft of options are available and many if not most are free, or low cost to the business. How much does a thank you or pat on the back cost?
In short talented people stay where their talents are recognised, rewarded, nurtured, developed and encouraged. Not rocket science at all is it? But so very few companies have a culture or processes to make sure this happens, and that is why so many have a hole in their talent bucket.